Friday, July 16, 2010

Patricia Clark Smith

Our friend poet and writer Patricia Clark Smith has died. She was a wise and joyous woman, a passionate and fierce and happy woman. An activist, a feminist and a true American citizen (in the old and very heroic sense) with roots in Native America, Pat made her indelible mark in our world of letters and in our hearts. Pat was a small woman and when she would see me she would hug me like a she-bear, burying her head in my chest, her eyes twinkling. Yes, her eyes twinkled. And when the discussion turned serious, she'd turn her eyes downward, her face scrunched up, her mind and heart working away fiercely so she could make her statements rightly and with passion. For many years now Pat has been married to our friend John Crawford, the publisher of Westend Press, a old-fashioned and very independent publishing company who has specialized in publishing the poetry of women of color. John, a true pioneer in the small press publishing explosion of the 70s, has been a mentor to Lee and me at Cinco Puntos, a good and generous teacher. I've spent a while this morning googling Pat and her work, but sadly there's not a lot of her poetry and short fiction out there right now. I did find the poem below from her book Changing Your Story from Westend, and I found "The Fatness of It," this nice and open-hearted memoir essay from the Weber Series on the Contemporary West.   

Lee and I will miss Pat greatly.
--Bobby Byrd

from the poem "Blueberry Hill"
for Dennis Jones

And now this morning the story long distance:
you dropping incredibly dead
with Beth your true love by your side
high on some Norwegian mountain,
a blueberry meadow
where they don’t pick blueberries one by one,
drop them plink plank plunk down into a pail
the way Yankees do; oh no,
those Norwegians break off whole twig-ends,
slurp them deliciously through their mouths
and swallow great dusky clouds of berries.
This impressed you,
you, always a man easily thrilled.  Dennis,

you are part of me still,
and I imagine how it was,
you sort of dancing, your arms flung wide,
gold fillings glinting in alpine sun
and crying out just before you died,
how can we be glad enough
for such abundance?

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